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Friday, December 30, 2005
(postmodernbarney.com)'s 2005 Wrap-Up Awards
The "It's Crossgen All Over Again, Isn't It?" Award: This very nearly went to Speakeasy, due to all their sudden bad press over their curious contracts which could leave many creators either owing the company money and the annoucement that cancelled titles would have their final issues available for reading on-line. But in the end, the award had to go to Alias. They completely botched their initial title roll-out, they've had serious problems getting books out on time, studios and creators have been leaving the company right and left, the only person who ever had anything good to say about the company on message-boards turned out to be Mike Miller using a pseudonym, they inserted a morality clause into contracts that appeared to be aimed solely at two artists, but to top it off the printer they're in partnership with tried to strong-arm independent publishers into publishing their titles through Alias to get printed.
The Tempest In A Teapot Award: Close race here between the sudden resurgence of the "is comics blogging dead" argument (brought up and discussed to death on several dozen different comics blogs) and the "is comics criticism dead" argument that flared up and, predictably, turned out to be all Ian's fault. In the end, though, I think the award has to go to the "is comics blogging dead" argument, if only because the intrinsic irony of comics bloggers discussing whether or not comics blogging exists anymore is too strong to resist.
The Stamping His Little Foot Award: Goes to Tokyopop. While Viz and Del Rey eat away at their sales, in addition to snatching up all the good licenses, while Dark Horse makes a serious go at building up a backlist of "classic" manga to keep in print, while Digital Manga Presents beat them to the punch on the yaoi boom, and while new-comers like Go Comi kick their ass in terms of sheer quality of book, what has Tokyopop been doing? Increasingly emphasizing their original material while what should be their core back-list either goes out of print or moves to another publisher. And that original material just really isn't that good. Too much of it is raw and amateurish, giving the line as a whole an image of "we'll publish any old crap you pitch to us." As has been frequently been discussed, the contracts for those original titles are terrible, frequently requiring artists to give up ownership of their work, in addition to scores of other bad clauses. And the audience for both manga and Western comics just haven't been interested in what Tokyopop has been putting out. But Tokyopop's attitude has been "you will read our original titles and you will like them!" I wonder if Natsuki Takaya knows that U.S. sales of Fruits Basket are subsidizing what amounts to vanity projects?
The Better The Devil You Know Award: Earlier this year, Rich Johnston turned his vile, slanderous "Lying in the Gutters" column into an exercise in serious comics-focused investigative journalism. And it was the deathly dullest thing I've ever read. I guess everyone else agreed, because he quickly turned it back into a gossip column. But, here's the thing; disguised as a gossip column, Rich has been doing serious investigative journalism on comics all along. But it's more entertaining to dress it up as rumor and innuendo. So that leaves us with Rich, Tom Spurgeon, the occasional piece in the Comics Journal, and a whole bunch of blogs and web-sites that regurgitate press releases from publishers as what passes for comics journalism. I'm honestly at a loss to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.
The "I'm Taking My Ball And Going Home!" Award: Goes to Alan Moore for demanding that his name be taken off his work published by DC because the producers of the V for Vendetta film implied that he'd approved of the film in some way. Now, I don't blame Moore for being upset with the producers of the film. They're schmucks and deserve a verbal beat-down. And I certainly don't blame Moore for taking his creator-owned projects to Top Shelf and Knockabout. It's a much better fit for him than a corporate publisher and can only benefit him and the publishers. What does leave me scratching my head is Moore's odd insistence that executives and editors at DC Comics have anything to do with a film company that just happens to be owned by the same corporation, and are in a position to exert any kind of pressure on film-makers at all. It's startlingly prima donna-ish behavior from a man who has been in the comics industry long enough to know how it works better than that. I mean, if I were a cynical man I'd say it was a deliberate ploy on Moore's part to get enough public pressure put on DC and Warner Brothers by outraged fans that he'd get what he wanted.
The "I Can't See The Forest, There Are Too Many Damn Trees In The Way" Award: This award goes to every single person out there who wrote a negative review of All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder because "Batman was out of character," or "there's too much sex and violence," or "Batman's actions don't make any sense," or "the dialogue is stilted," or, and this is my favorite, "it will alienate people who buy it after watching the movie." Folks, this comic is exactly what the civilian populace thinks a super-hero comic is all about: deliberately stupid dialogue, sexy dames and extreme violence. Frank Miller knows precisely what he's doing with this book, and Jim Lee, while not my favorite artist in the world, gives it a mass-appealing, polished look that will draw in people attracted to high-profile comics events. It's not quite a comedy, but it's got its tongue planted firmly enough in cheek to make Miller's deliberate tweaking of fanboy expectations that much more delicious. It's damn near the platonic ideal of a Batman comic.
The "It Wasn't Funny The First Time Either" Award: Goes to every blogger who makes rape jokes about comics published by DC. Seriously. Cut it out.
The Worst Trend Of 2005: The continuing fetishization of nostalgia. Oh, I know, the super-hero comics genre in and of itself is a nostalgic recreation of a seventy-year old fad in children's publishing, but this last year seemed to take the narcissistic, self-indulgent, neurotically defensive yearning for a non-existent age of innocent and naivete in super-hero comics to new depths. From Darwyn Cooke's worship of the Eisenhower era, to Alex Ross' photo-realistic, "serious" take on the Super Friends, to Mike Allred's bitter "critique" of contemporary comics; even when the work was good (as it often was in Cooke's and Allred's cases), the entire movement had the air of the frankly ridiculous about it.
The Worst Sign For 2006: Movies based on comic books. So far, it's not looking like a winner of a year. From Kelsey Grammer's blue body-paint, to Ghost Rider's bulging eye-balls, with anxiety over whether or not Brandon Routh is well endowed enough (or too well hung) to play the Man of Steel in between, it's not exactly looking like 2006 is going to be a break-out year for getting the general public excited about comic books by making good movies. I'm already prepared to say that the V for Vendetta film looks the worst of the bunch. From changing the nuanced politics of the books portrayal of fascism to "Nazis took over" and foregoing plot and character development in favor of cool looking wire-fu action sequences and an army of people dressed like V (way to miss the point of the story, guys...), it's just looking like a train-wreck of epic proportions. The cardinal sin, in my eyes, is that all available evidence indicates that the film-makers have missed out on the difference between protagonist and hero. V is not a hero. He is, in fact, a villain. It's Every who acts as the voice of moral authority through her transformation and ability to forgive her trespassers, but it looks like she's being reduced pretty solidly to V's sidekick in the film. Because a violent murder who knows kung-fu is a much better hero than a woman who experiences moral growth and maturity over the course of the story.
Favorite Super-Hero Comic Of 2005: Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers manages to look to the past to find new ways of telling stories in comics form, and transforms long neglected characters into vital protagonists. Yes, it plunders the past, but it uses that as a jumping off point to create the most forward looking, consistently inventive comics serial in years.
Favorite Non-Super-Hero Comic Of 2005: Root Nibot's and Colleen Coover's Banana Sunday. Charming, beautifully drawn, gently humorous and just flat-out feel-good. It's a stunning revelation. And Go-Go is my favoritist monkey ever.
Favorite Manga Of 2005: Iwahara Yuji's Chikyu Misaki has strongly appealing art and a story that flips in tone between silly and serious without losing the plot or flow of the story. This story about three girls and the transforming lake monster who link them together has much to recommend it, and it's the manga title I was most pleased to discover this last year.
Favorite Graphic Novel Of 2005: Rob Osborne's Sunset City was an incredible sophomore effort. It was deep and well illustrated and prompted more thought in me than any other comic I've read all year. This was the book to get this year.
Favorite Publisher Of 2005: This year, AIT/Planet Lar put out more good and worthwhile work than any other publisher I follow. From the aforementioned Sunset City, to new volumes of True Story Swear to God, The Couriers and Colonia, collected editions of Demo and Scurvy Dogs, and outstanding graphic novels like Filler, Smoke and Guns and Full Moon Fever, almost every month had something worthwhile and right up my alley on the racks.
Person Of The Year: This year I'm going with Gail Simone, for consistently writing some of the most character-driven and genuinely surprising and interesting super-hero adventure comics on the stands. She had a stellar year in 2005 and I'm really looking forward to her 2006 work.
And now, the one you've all been waiting for; The Sexiest Man In Comics For 2005
This was a tough year for me to make a choice, and when I put out a call for help I was mildly distressed just how good a taste in men my readers have. So, unable to come to a definitive choice, I'm going with two winners again this year.